Jerry Buss was one of the few men who can be called a basketball legend without ever having stepped onto the court. The Los Angeles Lakers majority owner who was best known for his contribution to the “Showtime Era” of basketball passed away today at 5:55a from an undisclosed form of cancer.
What made Buss different from other dynasty sports team owners, who are best known for buying the teams, was that he was so beloved by all of those who knew him. Buss wasn’t one of those sports team owners who operated with impudence for those around him, he respected opinions and brought in the best to advise. While Buss was best known for his ownership of the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Kings, he had his hand in a number of different professional sports teams as well: The Los Angeles Sparks (WNBA), The Los Angeles Strings (WTT) and the Los Angeles Lazers (MISL).
Despite having his hand in some many different pies, it was his ownership of the Los Angeles Lakers and his introduction of the “Showtime Era” of basketball that will really live on as the man’s dynasty. The “Showtime Era” of basketball was attached to the Lakers over a long stretch of time, where they were best known for their aggressive style of play. Players like Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Kurt Rambis, James Worthy, lasting from 1979 (when Buss took over) to 1989 were all what characterized this period in basketball. Even later on with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neil “Showtime” saw a renaissance. Players who could secure the ball off the board, and then drive down the lane on a fast-break tossing it up through the hoop before the opposing team even knew what happened. While it wasn’t Buss who was making the calls on the court, he was the chess-master who put the pieces on the board that he saw in his head. It wasn’t just about bringing the best players in the league together, it was about bringing together the players in the league that fit best together.
Nobody can take away the success that the “Showtime Era”, and “Showtime Renaissance” brought forth. 10 Championship seasons for the Lakers over Buss’ tenure spoke to the success of the man, and the team he brought together.
Buss was if nothing else a visionary, and model that other owners should follow. When you look back at other owners of dynasty teams, like George Steinbrunner, they’re not seen with the same favourable light. The reason is, that they were seen as only buying up the best players for a team – not as assembling a crack team who can slice they’re way through any competition.
Can the “Showtime” era in any format continue to live on without Buss? I’m not so sure. Again, Buss had less to do with spending budget on the “best”, than spending budget on the “best fit”. We already saw in the 2013 season that some of the moves that were made weren’t working as well together, and this was as Buss started to pull back (despite what anyone will tell you). I have no doubt more championships will be seen in LA, they just won’t be in the same manner that was seen from “Showtime”.
Buss and the ideas that he brought to the game are legendary. For a man who was never a player or coach, he changed the game in ways that few can deny – or will likely be able to repeat again (eat it LeBron). As with the passing of other sport legends that we have seen recently, you will be missed.
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